Spoken throughout Wales, and in Chubut province of Argentina
All UK speakers : 700,000+ (2012)
Wales : 562,016 speakers (19.0% of the population of Wales),
(data from 2011 Census); All skills (speaking, reading, or writing):
630,062 language users (reference)
England : 110,000–150,000 (estimated)
Argentina : L2 , 1,500-5,000 (data not from 2011 census) (2017)
* Insular Celtic
Latin (Welsh alphabet )
OFFICIAL LANGUAGE IN
Meri Huws , the
Welsh Language Commissioner (since 1 April 2012)
Welsh Government (Llywodraeth Cymru)
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Part of a series on the
CULTURE OF WALES
* Welsh (
Y Fro Gymraeg
Welsh medium education )
Traditional Welsh costume
* Land division (
* Historic counties )
Mythology and folklore
* Bara Lafwr
* Gower cuisine
Tatws Pum Munud
* Welsh breakfast
List of Welsh dishes
* List of restaurants in
Dydd Santes Dwynwen
Gŵyl Fair y Canhwyllau
* Saint David\'s Day
* Calan Awst
* Gŵyl San Steffan
* in Welsh
* in English
Music and performing arts
* Horse racing
* Rugby league
* Rugby union
* World Heritage Sites
* Coat of arms
Flag of Saint David
Flag of Saint David
* Other flags
WELSH (Cymraeg or y Gymraeg, pronounced ) is a member of the
Brittonic branch of the
Celtic languages . It is spoken natively in
Wales , by some in
England , and in
Y Wladfa (the Welsh colony in
Chubut Province ,
Argentina ). Historically, it has also been known
in English as "the British tongue", "Cambrian", "Cambric" and
United Kingdom Census 2011 recorded that the proportion of people
able to speak Welsh had dropped from 20.8% to 19%. Despite an increase
in the overall size of the Welsh population, this still meant that the
number of Welsh speakers in
Wales dropped from 582,000 in 2001 to
562,000 in 2011. However, this figure was still much higher than
508,000 or 18.7% of people who said they could speak Welsh in 1991.
The Welsh Language (Wales) Measure 2011 gave the Welsh language
official status in Wales, making it the only language that is de jure
official in any part of the United Kingdom, English being de facto
* 1 History
* 1.1 Origins
* 2 Geographic distribution
* 2.2 Outside
* 3 Status
* 3.1 Official status
* 3.2 Welsh in education
* 3.3 Welsh in information technology
* 3.4 Mobile phone technology
* 3.5 Welsh in warfare
* 3.6 Use of Welsh at the European Union
* 3.7 Use of Welsh by the
* 4 Vocabulary
* 6 Orthography
* 7 Morphology
* 8 Syntax
* 8.1 Possessives as direct objects of verbnouns
* 8.2 Pronoun doubling
* 9 Counting system
* 10 Dialects
* 11 Registers
* 11.1 Examples of sentences in literary and colloquial Welsh
* 12 See also
* 13 Notes
* 14 References
* 15 External links
History of the Welsh language This tattered Welsh
Bible of 1620, in Llanwnda church, was rescued from the hands of
French invaders in 1797.
Welsh language originated from the Britons at the end of the 6th
century. Prior to this, three distinct languages were spoken by the
Britons during the 5th and 6th centuries: Latin, Irish, and British.
According to T.M Charles Edwards, the emergence of Welsh as a distinct
language occurred towards the end of this period. The emergence of
Welsh was not instantaneous and clearly identifiable; the shift
occurred over a long period of time, some claiming to extend as late
as the 9th century.
Kenneth H. Jackson proposed a more general time
period for the emergence, specifically after the battle of Dyrham , a
military battle between the West Saxons and the Britons in 577 AD.
Four periods are identified in the history of Welsh, with rather
indistinct boundaries. The period immediately following the language's
emergence from Brittonic is sometimes referred to as Primitive Welsh;
this was followed by the
Old Welsh period, considered to stretch from
the beginning of the 9th century to the 12th century. The Middle
Welsh period is considered to have lasted from then until the 14th
century, when the Modern Welsh period began, which in turn divided
into Early and Late Modern Welsh.
The name Welsh originated as an exonym given to its speakers by the
Anglo-Saxons , meaning "foreign speech" (see Walha ). The native term
for the language is Cymraeg, meaning "British", and the name of the
Wales is Cymru.
Celtic languages § Classification
The development of Welsh as its own distinct language was influenced
by other Brittonic languages, such as Cornish , Breton , and
Classified as Insular Celtic , the British language has unclear
origins. According to some, Welsh may have arrived during the Bronze
Age . Those who support this theory believe that Welsh likely
originated somewhere along the Atlantic borders of what is now the
United Kingdom, and spread throughout Europe due to the booming
economy of this time. Janet Davies, though, argues that it is
impossible to clearly define when Welsh became more commonplace . In
either case, Welsh was certainly more widely spoken in the
Iron Age ;
this can be seen in the names of rivers, like the
Danube , and cities,
like London. During the Early Middle Ages the British language began
to fragment due to increased dialect differentiation, evolving into
Welsh and the other Brittonic languages. It is believed by some to
have become its own language somewhere around the end of the 6th
century. At least four different forms of
Welsh language predecessors
have been identified in these early periods: Galatian,
Gallo-Brittonic, Leptonic, and Celtiberian.
Kenneth H. Jackson suggested that the evolution in syllabic structure
and sound pattern was complete by around 550, and labelled the period
between then and about 800 "Primitive Welsh". This Primitive Welsh
may have been spoken in both
Wales and the
Hen Ogledd ("Old North"),
the Brittonic-speaking areas of what is now northern
Scotland , and therefore been the ancestor of
Cumbric as well
as Welsh. Jackson, however, believed that the two varieties were
already distinct by that time. The earliest Welsh poetry – that
attributed to the
Cynfeirdd or "Early Poets" – is generally
considered to date to the Primitive Welsh period. However, much of
this poetry was supposedly composed in the
Hen Ogledd , raising
further questions about the dating of the material and language in
which it was originally composed. This discretion stems from the fact
Cumbric was widely believed to have been the language used in Hen
8th century inscription in
Tywyn shows the language already
dropping inflections in the declension of nouns.
Janet Davies proposed that the origins of
Welsh language were much
less definite; in The Welsh Language: A History, she proposes that
Welsh may have been around even earlier than
600 AD. This is evidenced
by the dropping of final syllables from Brittonic: bardos (poet)
became bardd, and abona (river) became afon. Though both Davies and
Jackson cite minor changes in syllable structure and sounds as
evidence for the creation of Old Welsh, Davies suggests it may be more
appropriate to refer to this derivative language as Lingua Brittanica
rather than characterizing it as a new language altogether.
The next main period is
Old Welsh (Hen Gymraeg, 9th to 11th
centuries); poetry from both
Scotland has been preserved in
this form of the language. As Germanic and Gaelic colonisation of
Britain proceeded, the Brittonic speakers in
Wales were split off from
those in northern England, speaking Cumbric, and those in the
southwest, speaking what would become Cornish, and so the languages
diverged. Both the works of
Aneirin (Canu Aneirin, c.
600 ) and the
Book of Taliesin (Canu Taliesin) were in this era.
Middle Welsh (Cymraeg Canol) is the label attached to the Welsh of
the 12th to 14th centuries, of which much more remains than for any
earlier period. This is the language of nearly all surviving early
manuscripts of the
Mabinogion , although the tales themselves are
certainly much older. It is also the language of the existing Welsh
Middle Welsh is reasonably intelligible to a
modern-day Welsh speaker.
The famous cleric Gerald of
Wales tells, in his
Descriptio Cambriae ,
a story of King Henry II of
England . During one of the King's many
raids in the 12th century, Henry asked an old man of Pencader,
Carmarthenshire whether the
Welsh people could resist his army. The
old man replied:
It can never be destroyed through the wrath of man, unless the wrath
of God shall concur. Nor do I think that any other nation than this of
Wales, nor any other language, whatever may hereafter come to pass,
shall in the day of reckoning before the Supreme Judge, answer for
this corner of the Earth.
Bible translations into Welsh helped maintain the use of Welsh in
daily life. The
New Testament was translated by
William Salesbury in
1567 followed by the complete
Bible by William Morgan in 1588.
The proportion of respondents in the 2011 census who said they
could speak Welsh
Welsh has been spoken continuously in
Wales throughout recorded
history, but by 1911 it had become a minority language, spoken by
43.5% of the population. While this decline continued over the
following decades, the language did not die out. By the start of the
21st century, numbers began to increase once more.
The 2004 Welsh Language Use Survey showed that 21.7% of the
Wales spoke Welsh, compared with 20.8% in the 2001
census , and 18.5% in 1991. The 2011 census , however, showed a slight
decline to 562,000, or 19% of the population. The census also showed
a "big drop" in the number of speakers in the Welsh-speaking
heartlands, with the number dropping to under 50% in
Carmarthenshire for the first time. According to the Welsh Language
Use Survey 2013-15, 24% of people aged three and over were able to
Historically, large numbers of
Welsh people spoke only Welsh. Over
the course of the 20th century this monolingual population "all but
disappeared", but a small percentage remained at the time of the 1981
census. Most Welsh-speaking people in
Wales also speak English (while
Chubut Province , Argentina, most speakers can speak Spanish –
Y Wladfa ). However, many Welsh-speaking people are more
comfortable expressing themselves in Welsh than in English. A
speaker's choice of language can vary according to the subject domain
and the social context, even within a single discourse (known in
linguistics as code-switching ).
Welsh as a first language is largely concentrated in the north and
west of Wales, principally
Gwynedd , Conwy ,
Anglesey (Ynys Môn),
Carmarthenshire (Sir Gâr), north
Pembrokeshire (Sir Benfro), Ceredigion, parts of Glamorgan
(Morgannwg), and north-west and extreme south-west
Powys , although
first-language and other fluent speakers can be found throughout
Welsh-speaking communities persisted well on into the modern period
across the border with England.
Archenfield was still Welsh enough in
the time of Elizabeth I for the
Bishop of Hereford to be made
responsible, together with the four Welsh bishops, for the translation
Bible and the
Book of Common Prayer into Welsh. Welsh was still
commonly spoken here in the first half of the 19th century, and
churchwardens' notices were put up in both Welsh and English until
The number of Welsh-speaking people in the rest of Britain has not
yet been counted for statistical purposes. In 1993, the Welsh-language
S4C published the results of a survey into the
numbers of people who spoke or understood Welsh, which estimated that
there were around 133,000 Welsh-speaking people living in England,
about 50,000 of them in the Greater London area. The Welsh Language
Board , on the basis of an analysis of the Office for National
Statistics (ONS) Longitudinal Study, estimated there were 110,000
Welsh-speaking people in England, and another thousand in
Northern Ireland. In the 2011 Census , 8,248 people in
Welsh in answer to the question "What is your main language?" The ONS
subsequently published a census glossary of terms to support the
release of results from the census, including their definition of
"main language" as referring to "first or preferred language" (though
that wording was not in the census questionnaire itself). The wards
England with the most people giving Welsh as their main language
Liverpool wards: Central and Greenbank , and Oswestry South .
Trilingual (Spanish, Welsh and English) sign in
Bilingual road markings near
Cardiff Airport . In Welsh-speaking
areas, the Welsh signage appears first.
Although Welsh is a minority language, support for it grew during the
second half of the 20th century, along with the rise of organisations
such as the nationalist political party
Plaid Cymru from 1925 and
Welsh Language Society
Welsh Language Society from 1962.
Welsh Language Act 1993 and the Government of
Wales Act 1998
provide that the Welsh and English languages be treated equally in the
public sector, as far as is reasonable and practicable. Each public
body is required to prepare for approval a Welsh Language Scheme ,
which indicates its commitment to the equality of treatment principle.
This is sent out in draft form for public consultation for a
three-month period, whereupon comments on it may be incorporated into
a final version. It requires the final approval of the now defunct
Welsh Language Board (Bwrdd yr Iaith Gymraeg). Thereafter, the public
body is charged with implementing and fulfilling its obligations under
the Welsh Language Scheme. The list of other public bodies which have
to prepare Schemes could be added to by initially the Secretary of
State for Wales, from 1993–1997, by way of Statutory Instrument .
Subsequent to the forming of the National Assembly for
Wales in 1997,
the Government Minister responsible for the
Welsh language can and has
Statutory Instruments naming public bodies who have to prepare
Schemes. Neither 1993 Act nor secondary legislation made under it
cover the private sector, although some organisations, notably banks
and some railway companies, provide some of their information in
On 7 December 2010, the Welsh Assembly unanimously approved a set of
measures to develop the use of the
Welsh language within Wales. On 9
February 2011 this measure, the Proposed Welsh Language (Wales)
Measure 2011 , was passed and received Royal Assent, thus making the
Welsh language an officially recognised language within Wales. The
* confirms the official status of the Welsh language;
* creates a new system of placing duties on bodies to provide
services through the medium of Welsh;
* creates a
Welsh Language Commissioner with strong enforcement
powers to protect the rights of Welsh-speaking people to access
services through the medium of Welsh;
* establishes a Welsh Language Tribunal;
* gives individuals and bodies the right to appeal decisions made in
relation to the provision of services through the medium of Welsh
* creates a Welsh Language Partnership Council to advise Government
on its strategy in relation to the Welsh language;
* allows for an official investigation by the Welsh Language
Commissioner of instances where there is an attempt to interfere with
the freedom of Welsh-speaking people to use the language with one
With the passing of this measure, public bodies and some private
companies are required to provide services in Welsh. The Welsh
government's Minister for Heritage at the time,
Alun Ffred Jones ,
Welsh language is a source of great pride for the people of
Wales, whether they speak it or not, and I am delighted that this
Measure has now become law. I am very proud to have steered
legislation through the Assembly which confirms the official status of
the Welsh language; which creates a strong advocate for Welsh speakers
and will improve the quality and quantity of services available
through the medium of Welsh. I believe that everyone who wants to
access services in the
Welsh language should be able to do so, and
that is what this government has worked towards. This legislation is
an important and historic step forward for the language, its speakers
and for the nation." The measure was not welcomed warmly by all
supporters: Bethan Williams, chairperson of the Welsh Language
Society, gave a mixed response to the move, saying, "Through this
measure we have won official status for the language and that has been
warmly welcomed. But there was a core principle missing in the law
passed by the Assembly before Christmas. It doesn't give language
rights to the people of
Wales in every aspect of their lives. Despite
that, an amendment to that effect was supported by 18 Assembly Members
from three different parties, and that was a significant step
On 5 October 2011, Meri Huws, Chair of the
Welsh Language Board , was
appointed the new Welsh Language Commissioner. She released a
statement that she was "delighted" to have been appointed to the
"hugely important role", adding, "I look forward to working with the
Welsh Government and organisations in
Wales in developing the new
system of standards. I will look to build on the good work that has
been done by the
Welsh Language Board and others to strengthen the
Welsh language and ensure that it continues to thrive." First Minister
Carwyn Jones said that Meri would act as a champion for the Welsh
language, though some had concerns over her appointment: Plaid Cymru
spokeswoman Bethan Jenkins said, "I have concerns about the transition
from Meri Huws's role from the
Welsh Language Board to the language
commissioner, and I will be asking the Welsh government how this will
be successfully managed. We must be sure that there is no conflict of
interest, and that the
Welsh Language Commissioner can demonstrate how
she will offer the required fresh approach to this new role." Ms Huws
started her role as the
Welsh Language Commissioner on 1 April 2012.
Local councils and the National Assembly for
Wales use Welsh, issuing
Welsh versions of their literature, to varying degrees.
Most road signs in
Wales are in English and Welsh.
Since 2000, the teaching of Welsh has been compulsory in all schools
Wales up to age 16. That has had an effect in stabilising and
reversing the decline in the language. It means, for example, that
even the children of non-Welsh-speaking parents from elsewhere in the
UK grow up with a knowledge of, or complete fluency in, the language.
The wording on currency is only in English, exception in the legend
on Welsh pound coins dated 1985, 1990 and 1995, which circulate in all
parts of the UK. The wording is Pleidiol wyf i'm gwlad, which means
True am I to my country, and derives from the national anthem of
Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau .
Some shops employ bilingual signage. Welsh rarely appears on product
packaging or instructions.
The UK government has ratified the European Charter for Regional or
Minority Languages in respect of Welsh. Bilingual road sign near
Wrexham Central station .
The language has greatly increased its prominence since the creation
of the television channel
S4C in November 1982, which until digital
switchover in 2010 broadcast 70% of Channel 4's programming along with
a majority of
Welsh language shows during peak viewing hours. The
all-Welsh-language digital station
S4C Digidol is available throughout
Europe on satellite and online throughout the UK. Since the digital
switchover was completed in South
Wales on 31 March 2010,
became the main broadcasting channel and fully in Welsh. The main
evening television news provided by the
BBC in Welsh is available for
download. There is also a Welsh-language radio station,
Cymru , which was launched in 1977.
The only Welsh-language national newspaper
Y Cymro (The Welshman) is
published weekly. There is no daily newspaper in Welsh. A daily
Y Byd (The World) was scheduled to be launched on 3
March 2008, but was scrapped, owing to poor sales of subscriptions
Welsh Government deeming the publication not to meet the
criteria necessary for the kind of public funding it needed to be
rescued. There is a Welsh-language online news service which publishes
news stories in Welsh called
Golwg360 ("360 view").
WELSH IN EDUCATION
Welsh medium education
The decade around 1840 was a period of great social upheaval in
Wales, manifested in the Chartist movement. In 1839, 20,000 people
marched on Newport , resulting in a riot when 20 people were killed by
soldiers defending the Westgate Hotel, and the
Rebecca Riots where
tollbooths on turnpikes were systematically destroyed.
This unrest brought the state of education in
Wales to the attention
of the English establishment since social reformers of the time
considered education as a means of dealing with social ills. The Times
newspaper was prominent among those who considered that the lack of
education of the
Welsh people was the root cause of most of the
In July 1846, three commissioners, R.R.W. Lingen , Jellynger C.
Symons and H.R. Vaughan Johnson, were appointed to inquire into the
state of education in Wales; the Commissioners were all Anglicans and
thus presumed unsympathetic to the nonconformist majority in Wales.
The Commissioners presented their report to the Government on 1 July
1847 in three large blue-bound volumes. This report quickly became
known as the
Treachery of the Blue Books (Brad y Llyfrau Gleision)
since, apart from documenting the state of education in Wales, the
Commissioners were also free with their comments disparaging the
language, nonconformity , and the morals of the
Welsh people in
general. An immediate effect of the report was that ordinary Welsh
people began to believe that the only way to get on in the world was
through the medium of English, and an inferiority complex developed
Welsh language whose effects have not yet been completely
eradicated. The historian Professor
Kenneth O. Morgan referred to the
significance of the report and its consequences as "the Glencoe and
the Amritsar of Welsh history".
Welsh language as the medium of
In the later 19th century, virtually all teaching in the schools of
Wales was in English, even in areas where the pupils barely understood
English. Some schools used the
Welsh Not , a piece of wood, often
bearing the letters "WN", which was hung around the neck of any pupil
caught speaking Welsh. The pupil could pass it on to any schoolmate
heard speaking Welsh, with the pupil wearing it at the end of the day
being given a beating. One of the most famous Welsh-born pioneers of
higher education in
Wales was Sir Hugh Owen . He made great progress
in the cause of education, and more especially the University College
Aberystwyth , of which he was chief founder. He has been
credited with the Welsh Intermediate Education Act 1889 (52 "> Sign
promoting the learning of Welsh
Welsh is now widely used in education, with 73,263 children and young
Wales receiving their education in Welsh medium schools in
2014/15. 26% of all schools in
Wales are defined as Welsh medium
schools, with a further 7.3% offering some Welsh-medium instruction to
pupils. Under the National Curriculum , it is compulsory that all
students study Welsh up to the age of 16 as either a first or a second
language. Some students choose to continue with their studies through
the medium of Welsh for the completion of their A-levels as well as
during their college years. All local education authorities in Wales
have schools providing bilingual or Welsh-medium education. The
remainder study Welsh as a second language in English-medium schools.
Specialist teachers of Welsh called Athrawon Bro support the teaching
of Welsh in the National Curriculum. Welsh is also taught in adult
education classes. The
Welsh Government has recently set up six
centres of excellence in the teaching of Welsh for Adults, with
centres in North
Wales (learncymraeg.org ), Mid Wales, South West,
Glamorgan, Gwent. and Cardiff.
The ability to speak Welsh or to have Welsh as a qualification is
desirable for certain career choices in Wales, such as teaching or
customer service. All universities in
Wales teach courses in the
language, with many undergraduate and post-graduate degree programs
offered in the medium of Welsh, ranging from law, modern languages,
social sciences, and also other sciences such as biological sciences.
Aberystwyth, Cardiff, Bangor, and Swansea have all had chairs in Welsh
since their virtual establishment, and all their schools of Welsh are
successful centres for the study of the
Welsh language and its
literature, offering a BA in Welsh as well as post-graduate courses.
Following a commitment made in the One
Wales coalition government
between Labour and Plaid Cymru, the
Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol (Welsh
Language National College) was established. The purpose of the federal
structured college, spread out between all the universities of Wales,
is to provide and also advance Welsh medium courses and Welsh medium
scholarship and research in Welsh universities. There is also a
Welsh-medium academic journal called Gwerddon ("Oasis"), which is a
platform for academic research in Welsh and is published quarterly.
There have been calls for more teaching of Welsh in English-medium
WELSH IN INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY
List of Celtic-language media
Like many of the world's languages, the
Welsh language has seen an
increased use and presence on the internet, ranging from formal lists
of terminology in a variety of fields to
Welsh language interfaces
Windows 7 ,
Microsoft Windows XP , Vista ,
Microsoft Office ,
Mozilla Firefox and a variety of Linux
distributions , and on-line services to blogs kept in Welsh. A
variety of websites are also available in Welsh: the social networking
Facebook has offered a Welsh version since 2009, and
since July 2003.
MOBILE PHONE TECHNOLOGY
In 2006 the
Welsh Language Board launched a free software pack which
enabled the use of
SMS predictive text in Welsh. At the National
Wales 2009, a further announcement was made by the Welsh
Language Board that the mobile phone company
Samsung was to work with
the network provider Orange to provide the first mobile phone in the
Welsh language, with the interface and the T9 dictionary on the
600 available in the Welsh language. The model, available
Welsh language interface, has been available since 1
September 2009, with plans to introduce it on other networks.
On Android devices, user-created keyboards can be used. iOS devices
have fully supported the
Welsh language since the release of iOS 8 in
September 2014. Users can switch their device to Welsh to access apps
that are available in Welsh. Date and time on iOS is also localised,
as shown by the built-in Calendar application, as well as certain
third party apps that have been localized.
WELSH IN WARFARE
Secure communications are often difficult to achieve in wartime.
Cryptography can be used to protect messages, but codes can be broken.
Therefore, lesser-known languages are sometimes encoded, so that even
if the code is broken, the message is still in a language few people
know. For example, Navajo code talkers were used by the United States
World War II
World War II . Similarly, the
Royal Welch Fusiliers
Royal Welch Fusiliers ,
a Welsh regiment serving in Bosnia , used Welsh for emergency
communications that needed to be secure. It has been reported that
Welsh speakers from
Wales and from
Patagonia fought on both sides in
Falklands War .
USE OF WELSH AT THE EUROPEAN UNION
In November 2008, the
Welsh language was used at a meeting of the
European Union's Council of Ministers for the first time. The Heritage
Alun Ffred Jones addressed his audience in Welsh and his
words were interpreted into the EU’s 23 official languages. The
official use of the language followed years of campaigning. Jones said
"In the UK we have one of the world’s major languages, English, as
the mother tongue of many. But there is a diversity of languages
within our islands. I am proud to be speaking to you in one of the
oldest of these, Welsh, the language of Wales." He described the
breakthrough as "more than symbolic" saying "Welsh might be one of
the oldest languages to be used in the UK, but it remains one of the
most vibrant. Our literature, our arts, our festivals, our great
tradition of song all find expression through our language. And this
is a powerful demonstration of how our culture, the very essence of
who we are, is expressed through language."
USE OF WELSH BY THE VOYAGER PROGRAM
A greeting in Welsh is one of the 55 languages included on the
Voyager Golden Record chosen to be representative of Earth in NASA's
Voyager program launched in 1977. The greetings are unique to each
language, with the Welsh greeting being Iechyd da i chwi yn awr ac yn
oesoedd, which translates into English as "Good health to you now and
Welsh vocabulary draws mainly from original Brittonic words (wy
"egg", carreg "stone"), with some loans from Latin (ffenestr "window"
< Latin fenestra, gwin "wine" < Latin vinum), and English (silff
"shelf", giat "gate").
The phonology of Welsh includes a number of sounds that do not occur
in English and are typologically rare in European languages. The
voiceless alveolar lateral fricative , the voiceless nasals , and ,
and the voiceless alveolar trill are distinctive features of the
Welsh language. Stress usually falls on the penultimate syllable in
polysyllabic words, and the word-final unstressed syllable receives a
higher pitch than the stressed syllable.
Welsh is written in a Latin alphabet traditionally consisting of 28
letters, of which eight are digraphs treated as single letters for
collation : a, b, c, ch, d, dd, e, f, ff, g, ng, h, i, l, ll, m, n,
o, p, ph, r, rh, s, t, th, u, w, y
In contrast to English practice, "w" and "y" are considered vowel
letters in Welsh along with "a", "e", "i", "o" and "u".
The letter "j" is used in many everyday words borrowed from English,
like jam, jôc "joke" and garej "garage". The letters "k", "q", "v",
"x", and "z" are used in some technical terms, like kilogram, volt and
zero, but in all cases can be, and often are, replaced by Welsh
letters: cilogram, folt and sero. The letter "k" was in common use
until the sixteenth century, but was dropped at the time of the
publication of the
New Testament in Welsh, as William Salesbury
explained: "C for K, because the printers have not so many as the
Welsh requireth". This change was not popular at the time.
The most common diacritic is the circumflex , which disambiguates
long vowels , most often in the case of homographs, where the vowel is
short in one word and long in the other: e.g. man "place" vs mân
Colloquial Welsh morphology and Literary Welsh
Welsh morphology has much in common with that of the other modern
Celtic languages , such as the use of initial consonant
mutations and of so-called "conjugated prepositions " (prepositions
that fuse with the personal pronouns that are their object ). Welsh
nouns belong to one of two grammatical genders , masculine and
feminine, but they are not inflected for case . Welsh has a variety of
different endings and other methods to indicate the plural, and two
endings to indicate the singular of some nouns. In spoken Welsh, verb
inflection is indicated primarily by the use of auxiliary verbs rather
than by the inflection of the main verb. In literary Welsh, on the
other hand, inflection of the main verb is usual.
The canonical word order in Welsh is verb–subject–object .
Colloquial Welsh inclines very strongly towards the use of
auxiliaries with its verbs, as in English. The present tense is
constructed with bod ("to be") as an auxiliary verb , with the main
verb appearing as a verbnoun (used in a way loosely equivalent to an
infinitive) after the particle yn: Mae Siân yn mynd i Lanelli Siân
is going to Llanelli.
There, mae is a third-person singular present indicative form of bod,
and mynd is the verbnoun meaning "to go". The imperfect is constructed
in a similar manner, as are the periphrastic forms of the future and
In the preterite , future and conditional mood tenses, there are
inflected forms of all verbs, which are used in the written language.
However, speech now more commonly uses the verbnoun together with an
inflected form of gwneud ("do"), so "I went" can be Mi es i or Mi wnes
i fynd ("I did go"). Mi is an example of a preverbal particle; such
particles are common in Welsh.
Welsh lacks separate pronouns for constructing subordinate clauses;
instead, special verb forms or relative pronouns that appear identical
to some preverbal particles are used.
POSSESSIVES AS DIRECT OBJECTS OF VERBNOUNS
The Welsh for "I like Rhodri" is Dw i'n hoffi Rhodri (word for word,
"am I liking Rhodri"), with Rhodri in a possessive relationship with
hoffi. With personal pronouns, the possessive form of the personal
pronoun is used, as in "I like him": Dw i'n ei hoffi, literally, "am I
his liking" – "I like you" is Dw i'n dy hoffi ("am I your liking").
In colloquial Welsh, possessive pronouns, whether they are used to
mean "my", "your", etc. or to indicate the direct object of a
verbnoun, are commonly reinforced by the use of the corresponding
personal pronoun after the noun or verbnoun: ei dŷ e "his house"
(literally "his house of him"), Dw i'n dy hoffi di "I like you" ("I am
your liking of you"), etc. It should be noted that the
"reinforcement" (or, simply, "redoubling") adds no emphasis in the
colloquial register. While the possessive pronoun alone may be used,
especially in more formal registers, as shown above, it is considered
incorrect to use only the personal pronoun. Such usage is nevertheless
sometimes heard in very colloquial speech, mainly among young
speakers: Ble 'dyn ni'n mynd? Tŷ ti neu dŷ fi? ("Where are we going?
Your house or my house?").
The traditional counting system used in the
Welsh language is
vigesimal , i.e. it is based on twenties, as in standard French
numbers 70 (soixante-dix, literally "sixty-ten") to 99
(quatre-vingt-dix-neuf, literally "four score nineteen"). Welsh
numbers from 11 to 14 are "x on ten" (e.g. un ar ddeg: 11), 16 to 19
are "x on fifteen" (e.g. un ar bymtheg: 16), though 18 is deunaw, "two
nines"; numbers from 21 to 39 are "1–19 on twenty", 40 is deugain
"two twenties", 60 is trigain "three twenties", etc. This form
continues to be used, especially by older people, and it is obligatory
in certain circumstances (such as telling the time, and in ordinal
There is also a decimal counting system, which has become relatively
widely used, though less so in giving the time, ages, and dates (it
features no ordinal numbers). This system is in especially common use
in schools due to its simplicity, and in Patagonian Welsh. Whereas 39
in the vigesimal system is pedwar ar bymtheg ar hugain ("four on
fifteen on twenty") or even deugain namyn un ("two score minus one"),
in the decimal system it is tri deg naw ("three tens nine").
Although there is only one word for "one" (un), it triggers the soft
mutation (treiglad meddal) of feminine nouns, where possible, other
than those beginning with "ll" or "rh". There are separate masculine
and feminine forms of the numbers "two" (dau and dwy), "three" (tri
and tair) and "four" (pedwar and pedair), which must agree with the
grammatical gender of the objects being counted. The objects being
counted appear in the singular, not plural form.
There is no standard or definitive form of the Welsh language.
Although northern and southern Welsh are two commonly mentioned main
dialects, in reality additional significant variation exists within
those areas. The more useful traditional classification refers to four
main dialects: Y Wyndodeg, the language of
Gwynedd ; Y Bowyseg, the
Powys ; Y Ddyfedeg, the language of Dyfed ; and Y
Wenhwyseg , the language of Gwent and
Morgannwg . Fine-grained
classifications exist beyond those four: the book Cymraeg, Cymrâg,
Cymrêg: Cyflwyno'r Tafodieithoedd ("Welsh, Welsh, Welsh: Introducing
the Dialects") about Welsh dialects was accompanied by a cassette
containing recordings of fourteen different speakers demonstrating
aspects of different area dialects. The book also refers to the
earlier Linguistic Geography of
Wales as describing six different
regions which could be identified as having words specific to those
Another dialect is
Patagonian Welsh , which has developed since the
Y Wladfa (the Welsh settlement in
Argentina ) in 1865; it
includes Spanish loanwords and terms for local features, but a survey
in the 1970s showed that the language in
Patagonia is consistent
throughout the lower Chubut valley and in the Andes.
The differences in dialect are marked in pronunciation and in some
vocabulary but also in minor points of grammar. For example: consider
the question "Do you want a cuppa ?" In
Gwynedd this would typically
be Dach chi isio panad? while in
Glamorgan one would be more likely to
hear Ych chi'n moyn dishgled? (though in other parts of the South one
would not be surprised to hear Ych chi isie paned? as well, among
other possibilities). An example of a pronunciation difference is the
tendency in some southern dialects to palatalise the letter "s", e.g.
mis (month), usually pronounced , but as in parts of the south. This
normally occurs next to a high front vowel like /i/, although
exceptions include the pronunciation of sut "how" as in the southern
dialects (compared with northern ).
In the 1970s, there was an attempt to standardise the language by
teaching 'Cymraeg Byw' ("Living Welsh") – a colloquially-based
generic form of Welsh. But the attempt largely failed because it did
not encompass the regional differences used by speakers of Welsh.
Modern Welsh can be considered to fall broadly into two main
registers —Colloquial Welsh (Cymraeg llafar) and Literary Welsh
(Cymraeg llenyddol). The grammar described here is that of Colloquial
Welsh, which is used in most speech and informal writing. Literary
Welsh is closer to the form of Welsh standardised by the 1588
translation of the
Bible and is found in official documents and other
formal registers, including much literature. As a standardised form,
literary Welsh shows little if any of the dialectal variation found in
colloquial Welsh. Some differences include:
Can omit subject pronouns (pro-drop )
Subject pronouns rarely omitted
More extensive use of simple verb forms
More extensive use of periphrastic verb forms
No distinction between simple present and future
(e.g. af "I go"/"I shall go") Simple form most often expresses only
(e.g. af i "I'll go")
Subjunctive verb forms
Subjunctive in fixed idioms only
3rd.pl ending and pronoun –nt hwy
3rd.pl ending and pronoun –n nhw
Amongst the characteristics of the literary, as against the spoken,
language are a higher dependence on inflected verb forms, different
usage of some of the tenses, less frequent use of pronouns (since the
information is usually conveyed in the verb/preposition inflections)
and a much lesser tendency to substitute English loanwords for native
Welsh words. In addition, more archaic pronouns and forms of mutation
may be observed in Literary Welsh.
EXAMPLES OF SENTENCES IN LITERARY AND COLLOQUIAL WELSH
I get up early every day.
Codaf yn gynnar bob dydd.
Dw i'n codi'n gynnar bob dydd. (North)
Rwy'n codi'n gynnar bob dydd. (South)
I'll get up early tomorrow.
Codaf yn gynnar yfory.
Mi goda i'n gynnar fory
Wna i godi'n gynnar fory
He had not stood there long.
Ni safasai yno yn hir.
Doedd o ddim wedi sefyll yno'n hir. (North)
(D)ôdd e ddim wedi sefyll yna'n hir. (South)
They'll sleep only when there's a need.
Ni chysgant ond pan fo angen.
Fyddan nhw'n cysgu ddim ond pan fydd angen.
In fact, the differences between dialects of modern spoken Welsh pale
into insignificance compared to the difference between some forms of
the spoken language and the most formal constructions of the literary
language. The latter is considerably more conservative and is the
language used in Welsh translations of the
Bible , amongst other
things (although the 2004 Beibl Cymraeg Newydd – New
Welsh Bible –
is significantly less formal than the traditional 1588 Bible). Gareth
King, author of a popular Welsh grammar, observes that "The difference
between these two is much greater than between the virtually identical
colloquial and literary forms of English". A grammar of Literary
Welsh can be found in A Grammar of Welsh (1980) by Stephen J. Williams
or more completely in Gramadeg y Gymraeg (1996) by Peter Wynn Thomas.
(No comprehensive grammar of formal literary Welsh exists in
English.) An English-language guide to colloquial Welsh forms and
register and dialect differences is "Dweud Eich Dweud" (2001, 2013) by
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Association of Welsh Translators and Interpreters
English and Welsh
Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion
Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion
* Languages in the
List of Welsh-language media
List of Welsh films
List of Welsh-language authors
List of Welsh-language poets (6th century to c. 1600)
* List of
List of Welsh principal areas by percentage Welsh language
* Welsh literature
Welsh Language Board
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WELSH EDITION of , the free encyclopedia